Cycling News

E3 Saxo Classic: van der Poel Slowly Takes Over


It took several tries, and a lot of watts, but eventually World Champion Mathieu van der Poel asserted his dominance in the cobbled classics over the field to win the E3 Saxo Bank Classic for the first time. With two podium places on his palmares, just like his dad Adrie, the Dutch star set out to put the family name on the roll of honor in Harelbeke, Belgium, and he eventually succeeded after several attacks in the final block of climbs, getting free for good over the Paterberg and staying away, tenuously at first before winning by close to two minutes.

With Visma-Lease-a-Bike and Lidl-Trek staffing the main chase group (behind a leading break that would melt away before long), the race heated up over the Boigneberg and Stationsberg, as Oier Lazkano and Mads Pedersen kept close track of van der Poel’s accelerations, with Visma’s Wout Van Aert always right on the Alpecin man’s heels too. But no shattering of the group would stick until the Paterberg, where van der Poel hit the gas dramatically, and where van Aert slid out on the road’s edge while in pursuit. That left van der Poel alone with a gap. Van Aert recovered, and then with teammate Matteo Jorgenson keeping the group in control over the Oude Kwaremont, the Belgian former winner got clear and went off in pursuit of the rainbow jersey, his eternal rival.

From nearly thirty seconds, the gap shrunk to around ten until the race reached the E3 Col, known most of the year as Karnemelkbeekstraat, straddling Belgium’s linguistic border, where van der Poel increased his effort and at last Van Aert could not respond. It was all over but the shouting at that point, with groups straggling home for the remaining places. Jasper Stuyven caught the sagging Van Aert and took second place.

Photo by DIRK WAEM/Belga/AFP via Getty Images

Harelbeke – Harelbeke 207.6 km

The ultimate semi-classic, the happy-funtime version or De Ronde, the often best race day of the year. Just a great way to kick off the weekend.

Expected finish time: 16:15-16:55 CET

Harelbekian of the Day: Tim Wellens

At some point he’s bound to win something big and this could be it. The form is good, Visma are sneaking around worrying about blowing their load before the monuments, Mathieu isn’t completely sharp. The door is ever so slightly ajar…

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